There is an ugly epidemic that openly lurks within the United States in every town, city and state. It is an epidemic that has been steadily increasing for decades upon decades. Its face can be blatantly seen or shrouded under protective masks. Building like storm waves beneath the surface and either exploding outward like volcanoes or destroying from within like acid constantly eating until nothing remains, this epidemic expands and touches lives far and wide.
It first started to gain attention heavily back in the 40’s but the earliest recorded documentation of identifying this epidemic condition of today was back in the late 1500’s. Though it was during and after World War 2 that the condition was directly observed and studies began to open into the realm of medical and mental sciences. Even so, the rate of increase in cases from then through today has skyrocketed to become the epidemic it currently is that plagues every level of the social system, from the poor to the wealthy and spanning all ethnicities.
Though it can affect anyone, both male and female, young and old it is hardest struck in those who have endured extreme levels of trauma. Of course not everyone who has or will go through trauma will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Statistics show only about 8% of men who experience hardcore trauma will develop PTSD and 20% of women develop the condition. Interestingly children under ten years of age who experience trauma are less likely to develop PTSD than teens and adults. Nonetheless it has been seen that children who suffered trauma to the point of developing dissociation conditions are far more likely to develop PTSD later in life if they endure some traumatic experience than those who have not been forced into dissociative behaviors.
Common terms prior to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been Shellshock, Soldier’s Heart, Combat Stress Reaction, Battle Fatigue and many others. PTSD was the official term brought into play in 1970’s when many Vietnam Veterans were being heavily affected by post war stress. The last number I heard was that 830,000 Vietnam Veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. That percentage of vets who developed PTSD were far higher for those who experienced combat than those who did not.
Even though a small percentage of people who experience trauma actually develop PTSD the sheer numbers of people who are diagnosed with the condition are staggering. To make matter even higher, there are a great many people out there who are thought to have the condition in some form that are not diagnosed. Another interesting fact is that people who have been conditioned or made aware of potential side-effects of trauma are far less likely to develop PTSD if they experience trauma.
The point of this article however, is to bring light to a sobering fact of this growing epidemic and some potent points that go hand-in-hand.
There are two major types of PTSD that seem to be the two headline titles that others fall under and they are:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Most people that are diagnosed with PTSD have the “simplified” Post Traumatic Disorder verses the Complex version. From my research it appears that more combat veterans possess the Complex version than those with other forms of traumas. The name of course gives rise to the understanding that the Complex version is far more difficult to treat than the regular PTSD due to its many levels. The Complex version supposedly stems from repeated and extreme levels of ongoing trauma verses singular events like a car wreck or rape. No matter which version or the name, both are serious issues and disrupt many lives.
When I first heard of PTSD I thought it was purely an emotional issue and had no idea what it actually entailed. So when I was first diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I was rather shocked and surprised. Study and the help of knowledgeable people led me to find out the facts. In PTSD there are three areas of the brain that can be adversely affected. The:
- prefrontal cortex
The prefrontal cortex is responsible for personality expression, social behaviors, decision making and the planning of complex cognitive behaviors. The amygdale section of the brain formulates fear related memories and the hippocampus organizes memories into specific context of time, location and memory recall.
In people with PTSD the prefrontal cortex can be physically reduced in size and its functions slowed. The hippocampus can also be decreased in size and it function suppressed. The amygdale lobe however, can be physical enlarged and working in excess. I find it interesting that the amygdale sits next to the brainstem, which in humans is reptilian based and the source of our aggression and fight or flight response.
So the condition of PTSD I learned is not just some emotional issue but, a very real physical condition where severe trauma actually forced the brain to change not only its patterns but also the size and function of specific lobes that control large areas of our ability to function. It becomes very difficult to stop the fight or flight mechanism, place surfacing memories and flashbacks into their correct place of time and even successfully interact with people on the most basic levels. Dissociation occurs frequently, avoidance of situations, energies, places and people becomes forefront in daily regimes. Night terrors consume the dark hours of sleep and keep you in a constant state of tiredness that stresses the system even further.
I began to look further into this diagnosed condition and discovered that in many PTSD conditions the cortisol production of the adrenal glands is heightened. Over time this causes adrenal burn-out and thus the adrenals start producing less than normal cortisol. This became the case with me. For too many years my adrenals were working in full swing to deal with the lifestyle and ongoing extreme levels of trauma. No organ or gland can hold up that pace of production forever. There came a time when they basically said, “Enough!” This leads to energy crashes and extreme swells of fatigue that can plague the daily life and everything one tries to do. With these crashes come so does dimmed mental focus and the darkness of the out of place past memory recall of trauma.
I can say from my own personal experience of living with CPTSD for many years that it is no fun and a constant challenge. The smallest lack of focus or sickness or some other situation that dulls the sharpness of personal awareness allows the darkness of CPTSD to creep in like oozing tar to clog the brain and distort the entire system internal. You cannot just turn it off. It is not a simple matter of changing your focus because it involves the actual functioning of the physical brain mechanics. Some days I am fine and hardly notice and other days… well other days are not so easy at all. During these days I retreat from the modern world and move myself into my element, the raw wilderness away from everything else. I have met others with various forms of PTSD from combat oriented backgrounds I see many similarities.
Did you know that there are around 300,000 veterans wandering homeless on the American streets? Over 65% of them served this country for at least three years and saw the horrors of combat. Stats show that the average veteran that is homeless spends a solid 6 years being homeless. 1.4 million veterans of today are at risk of becoming homeless once they leave military service and somewhere around 465,000 vets are diagnosed with PTSD in some form. There is almost a 45% increase in divorce rates among veterans since the Vietnam conflict. In other words, something seriously is not working!
The offices and organizations to assist veterans are seriously understaffed and ill equipped financially to successfully assist all the vets who require it. A very small percentage has the actual resources to properly offer assistance. The suicide rate in 2005 was quite high for vets and has steadily climbed as the years have progressed. The secretary of veterans affairs announced in 2005 that the VA will not review 72,000 files from vets receiving financial assistance for PTSD. That was their response to the suicide statistics that were released the same year…
Through the grapevine it is being claimed that this year alone some 6,000 military majors were “laid off” and yet now through dictator Obama’s Dream Act the United States is allowing hordes of illegal aliens to join the military. Military “lifers” deployed in Afghanistan are being given pink slips and forced to leave before they gain 20 years and are due full pensions. Yet we have opened the doors for tons of illegal immigrants pouring into this country to join the military! Yet we do not have enough resources to help the hundreds of thousands who have served and are in desperate need of help! And still congress gets exorbitant raises and funding for useless programs.
The fact is that America has never gone more than a decade without engaging in war or “conflict”. Think on that for a moment. Humanity has become blind and numb to the plague that undermines the lives of millions. Politics and greed have become the point of normal focus and anything that interferes or falls outside that cold focal point is tossed aside. Most of the people diagnosed with PTSD are drugged with toxic chemical concoctions manufactured by the pharmaceutical corporations to keep the afflicted silenced and out of trouble. So long as the insurance companies see that a therapist saw a client for 15 minutes and made sure the clients prescriptions were refilled they say nothing and pay, but when a therapist actually attempts to seriously work with someone the insurance companies scream. That is a fact I gained from speaking with people inside the profession, not speculation.
Most of the psychiatric world is trained to handle people through prescribing drugs and nothing more. They are filled with fear themselves and literally got into the profession to try learning how to deal with their own fears, but for most it seems they succumb to the rigid cold system instead. There are very few out there who actually have a heart and the patience and skills to genuinely try helping people with PTSD.
Another twist in the dark game is that veterans for the most part at least have groups they can go to for support. They have community, but for those who came out of agencies and projects like myself, there are no groups. The vet offices will not entertain anyone coming out of black projects and agencies external of the military. This is yet another form of keeping the isolation protocols running in full force for those coming from internal dark agency programs. If it were not for my wife’s job and insurance I would have no available assistance. If I did not have her unconditional support on all levels and were not married I would not be a part of society, but rather would be deep in the wilderness away from it all. I could not live in a town of any kind. This I know. Many people that I know do not have any understanding of why I am the “way I am” or why I respond to certain things the way I do or act the way I do. They just pass me off as being an “oddball”. Even some of my family and closest friends really have little concept of what CPTSD actually is and what it creates. Some views are that it is my fault or that I am just not strong enough to “get past it”. That is the long and short of it.
I am doing my best to write this article as straightforward and neutrally as possible because there is deep anger surround the whole issue and topic because I have also felt the brunt of it. Not being able to hold a full-time job, jumping in and out of the medical facilities and running through all kinds of tests because my body has suffered severely in the service of this country and dealing with CPTSD… yes I am doing my best here because it hits deep, but I am holding my fucking tongue.
Blood, money and drugs do not wash away the scars and nightmares. I understand how many people dislike the military and I am in agreement, but the soldiers that make up the bulk of the organizations both military and agencies are individuals, people, human beings. They give their lives for what they believe, even if it is not what many wish to hear or admit. Even though all wars are planned and organized, it is the individuals on the frontlines that suffer and bleed for the “freedoms” that we do have. Like it or not if we did not have the military forces this country would not be as “peaceful” as most of its civilians experience it as. I dislike the machine as much or more than many, but I also understand the reality we live in and I have witnessed firsthand what lives right outside the protective boarders. I know what lives inside our boarders as well and what keeps it in check. The pains and mutilations of my body and mind are constant reminders of this firsthand knowledge.
This article is not to gain pity but rather help to shed a bit more light on the reality of an epidemic growing larger and larger every year in our country and ruining the lives of millions. It is also to brings to light the way the system treats and views those in genuine need. Yet another failure of the system in which lives are the heavy cost. Do you know someone with PTSD? Do not alienate them. They do not have Ebola or Cholera. They are in pain and seek genuine support of care and love, not some false-face programmed response or drug. If they are a military or agency vet they suffered for your ability to walk outside in relative safety, travel from state to state, take vacations and sleep somewhat easy at night. We are all in this together and isolation and divisions of fear and prejudice are not the answer to anything.
Continued in- Ugly Epidemic Reality- part 2